Stoner rock

This is one musical dinosaur that didn’t go extinct

Fu Manchu
  • Fu Manchu
  • Photograph by John Gilhooley
Past Event

Fu Manchu

  • Friday, December 14, 2018, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $15
Past Event

Fu Manchu

  • Saturday, December 15, 2018, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $15

Even though the calendar proves otherwise, the members of Fu Manchu, a San Clemente band that dates back to the 1980s, seem not to have aged much. Still sporting the Vans skater gear and way-long hair and hard-rocking songs influenced by Blue Cheer and Black Flag, Fu Manchu still have the collective agility of 18-year-olds. They come with the same guitar-driven rock and roll that has stayed the course through 11 of their own albums now, and their stage show remains unchanged. If the Fu Manchu ethic appears cliché to a newcomer, remember that this is one of the bands that invented that particular slice of rock history. Stoner rock, called ‘desert rock’ in some circles, is its own entity.

The mother of all stoner rock is blues music. Of course, American blues begat everything from jazz to the kind of hybrid blues-rock that Jimi Hendrix and Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Airplane were making by the end of the 1960s. Led Zeppelin, when they were new, were bluesier than many will remember. Amplifiers got bigger, rock concerts got louder, and the electric guitar bumped off rock’s first weapon of choice, the saxophone. Distortion was the new rule, and that’s where bands like Fu Manchu came in. Their psychedelic sound of distorted electric guitar, driving electric bass, and power-kicked drums gave us our first glimpse of stoner rock.

The primitive aspects of stoner rock are key to its popularity. Stoner rock sounds like anyone could play it, (which was part of the sonic protest that was original garage rock, and later, punk.) And no one stayed up late to write lyrics such as these: “Summer girl / free and easy / she came to me / like a summer breeze.” Broken? No. This is one musical dinosaur that didn’t go extinct.

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